Is Controversy Christian? -- By: Ernest Pickering

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 04:3 (Fall 1961)
Article: Is Controversy Christian?
Author: Ernest Pickering

Is Controversy Christian?

Ernest Pickering

Dean, Central Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary

Many earnest Christians are very much opposed to religious controversy. To them disagreement, debate, and division over religious issues is quite deplorable and, in their judgment, contrary to the spirit of Christ and detrimental to His cause. Hence these good people tend to avoid discussions, meetings, literature, or issues which would bring into focus matters likely to cause controversy.

There is a spirit abroad today which creates a climate for this type of thought. The idea of “peaceful coexistence” is an appealing one to multitudes of people. The religious climate is one of softness and compromise. Witness the support by large religious bodies of such notions as nuclear disarmament, recognition of Red China, “Tractors for Freedom, “the abolition of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and hosts of other positions of appeasement. A moral deterioration has almost paralyzed the voice of freedom, and, whether it be fully realized or not, has affected the thought and actions of many Christian people.

What, after all, is so vitally important about the verbal inspiration of Scripture, the premillennial return of Christ, or other such doctrines that would cause us to “have a fuss” with good Christian brethren? Such is the inquiry from many. A plea is made for a spirit of tolerance. But one noted Christian educator has put his finger on the error often present here when he writes,

There are many pleas made these days for “tolerance.” But often “tolerance” is not the right word for that which is demanded. What is meant is “compromise.” Tolerance and compromise are not the same thing. This is tolerance—to grant to another the same rights which I claim for myself. This is compromise—to sacrifice heart-felt conviction in order that someone else may be pleased or in order to avoid a breach of peace.1 To compromise with wrong in the name of tolerance is to dishonor God and His Word.

How often Christian people are heard to criticize an individual, institution, or group by saying, “We don’t like them. They are always fighting.”

“Always fighting?” With whom? For what? The character of a man, an institution, or a movement may be more readily recognized sometimes by the nature of their enemies than by the number of their friends. Is the fact that

they have been, or are, embroiled in controversy necessarily a sign that they are unspiritual? “Oh,” someone says, “but they sometimes fight with other Christians!” But ag...

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